A group of four transgender devotees on their way to Lord Ayyappa temple were allegedly stopped at Erumeli, about 50 km from Sabarimala, by the Kerala police, who discouraged them to proceed further.
Ananya, one of the four transgender devotees, told news agency IANS, “We began our pilgrimage on Saturday from Ernakulam and the special branch wing of the police was witness to the prayers and all the ritual functions that we undertook. But when we reached Erumeli, the cops, even women officials, were quite rude.”
Disgruntled with the Kerala police, she further added that “the ban on menstruating women is not applicable to us. We had explained that to the police, they were not ready to allow us to the temple.”
Ananya, Trupti, Renjumol and Avanthika, the four devotees were dressed in black sarees, which is the traditional attire for the pilgrimage, and were carrying the customary ‘irumudikettu‘ (sacred offerings to God).
The four, however, alleged that the police ridiculed them and even asked them to change their attire and get into men’s clothing if they wanted permission to enter the shrine.
“Initially, we refused but after some time, we decided to change our clothes. However, the police still asked us to return,” Ananya added.
These four devotees have now decided to approach the High Court against the Kerela police’s misbehaviour. The allegations have been, however, dismissed by the Kottayam’s Superintendent of Police, S Harishankar, who said that “everyone has the right to offer prayers at Sabarimala. We need to get some more legal clarity in this regard. So, we will approach the high court-appointed panel and seek their advice,” he told reporters.
Sabarimala has been witnessing protests ever since the Supreme Court allowed women of all ages to enter the temple ignoring the shrine’s age-old tradition barring women of menstruating age to enter the holy place.
However, since the controversial order, no woman of menstrual age has been able to enter the hilltop shrine because of massive protests by the devotees, who believe that changing the tradition would be an insult to Lord Ayyappa.
The legend has it that the temple deity Ayyappa followed celibacy all through his life.
The Supreme Court will begin hearing petitions seeking review of its order from January 22.